Football

I-League | Mohun Bagan in cruise control

No trouble: Mohun Bagan’s players, in white, made light of the conditions and Real Kashmir’s home advantage in a dominant display on Sunday.

No trouble: Mohun Bagan’s players, in white, made light of the conditions and Real Kashmir’s home advantage in a dominant display on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

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Jumps to the top of the league; Real Kashmir fails to fire

The stands were full and noisy, the queues outside the TRC Turf Ground stretching far and everyone waiting for Real Kashmir FC to get going on Sunday.

It never did. Barring a few isolated attempts at the goal and some desperate shooting and heading, the local favourite in its second home game appeared collectively off-colour against a better-prepared Mohun Bagan. It went down 2-0 for its first loss this year even as the visitor, after complaining about the conditions, the artificial turf and even the practice time, completed a dominant victory to top the I-League table with 10 points from five games.

RKFC so far had managed to get off to good starts this season, stumbling in the second half but managing to get away with draws in its first two games before winning the previous outing against champion Chennai City FC. On Sunday, the team seemed to have left its plans back in the hotel.

Busy and clueless

Bagan began well, attacking early on and creating quite a few chances but couldn’t find a break-through. Between them, Joseba Beitia in the middle and Ashutosh Mehta on the right, kept the RKFC defence busy and clueless. In fact, almost every attack that Bagan mounted had the imprint of one of them.

Despite physical superiority, RKFC appeared lost for possession and space. An on-field scuffle early on did not help matters. Papa Babacar Diawara, Bagan’s new Senegalese signing playing his first game, came close to putting it ahead in the 17th minute but, with only the RKFC goalkeeper to beat in front of an empty goal, hit wide.

Kallum Higginbotham was the only RKFC player who appeared to find a way to push the ball forward but could only find Mason Robertson out of position. When he was in position, Mason ended up heading wide. Danish Farooq was off-target upfront and Subhash Singh had an off-day at the back, Mehta outflanking him at will.

The second half was far more balanced. Coach David Robertson clearly had made himself heard during the break. There were more co-ordinated attempts from RKFC, more passes upfront and more breaking through the middle. The game opened up and Bazie Armand had the best chance for RKFC in the 50th minute but sent the ball sailing over.

Deadlock broken

Gnohere Krizo came off the bench and tried to leverage his height but found a match in Bagan defender and compatriot Daniel Cyrus. It finally took a Mehta throw-in, headed by Cyrus and volleyed into the net by Beitia to break the deadlock in the 71st minute. Three minutes later, substitute P.M. Britto put through Nongdamba Naorem for the team’s second goal. RKFC kept trying to pull one back but there appeared no sense of urgency and a complete absence of planning in its shooting.

Robertson later admitted that Bagan managed to fend off the early attacks that RKFC is known for. He added that while his team did grow in the game, Bagan always controlled the proceedings.

The host next plays Punjab FC here in what is likely to be a grudge match after the latter refused to travel last season. It would also be a chance for Robertson’s boys to put Sunday’s disappointment behind.

The results: Real Kashmir FC 0 lost to Mohun Baga 2 (Joseba Beitia 71, Nongdamba Naorem 74).

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 2:53:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/i-league-mohun-bagan-in-cruise-control/article30485766.ece

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